Sunday, May 25, 2014

150 Years Ago Today - Battle of New Hope Church

After the clash at Resaca on May 15, Sherman continued moving south. Avoiding the well defended Allatoona Pass, the Union commander left his communications with the railroad and headed southwest. Johnson's Confederates continued to give resistance, rapidly throwing up earthwork defenses when possible.

On May 25, Union forces under Gen. Joseph Hooker ran into rebels from Gen. A. P. Stewart's Division near New Hope Church. One of the Union soldiers engaged that day was Corporal Edmund R. Brown of the 27th Indiana Infantry Regiment, which was in Thomas H. Ruger's (pictured) brigade. Of the fighting here Brown wrote:

"Suddenly, a most terrific fire of both musketry and artillery was opened upon us. We were at the foot of, or passing up, a gentle slope. On the crest, barely a few rods distant, was a long parapet blazing with [gun] fire and and death. The undergrowth was so dense that few, if any, of us were aware of what we were coming to, until the storm burst. It came with so little premonition on our part, that it almost seemed as if the position had been purposely masked, and that we had been decoyed to our death. This impression may have been prevailed among us to some extent afterwards. It is scarcely necessary to say that such was not the case. The timber which, for lack of time and means, the enemy could not cut away, had, until now, prevented them from seeing us, as well as us from seeing them.

It would be impossible to conceive of a more appalling, terrifying, if not fatal, rain of lead and iron than this one, which our line met at New Hope Church. The canister and case shot in particular, hissed, swished and sung around and among us, barking the trees, glancing and bounding from one to the other, ripping up the ground, throwing dirt in our faces and rolling at our feet, until those not hit by them were ready to conclude that they surely would be hit. Milton's words were none too strong to apply to the situation:
'Fierce as ten furies and terrible as hell' 

Yet the boys only cheered the more defiantly, and, while loading and firing with all their might, gained ground to the front. Just in the hottest of the fight there was a downpour of rain. In the damp and murky atmosphere the smoke from our muskets, instead of rising and disappearing, settled around us and accumulated in thick clouds. The woods in which we were immersed became [weird] and spectral. Eventually it became almost a battle in the dark. When we were finally brought to a standstill it was impossible to make out with any distinctness even the position of the enemy. Our aim was directed almost wholly at the flashes and reports of their guns."

Fighting along this line continued with battles at Pickett's Mill (May 27) and Dallas (May 28). The terrible fighting at Kennesaw Mountain was less than month away and the prize of Atlanta was only a few tough miles ahead. But many lives would be expended in attacking and defending the important rail city.
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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